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Mr. HARE. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act. As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I had the privilege of working on this legislation, which will have a large impact on the students, veterans, and workers in the rural communities of my Congressional district.
Today's legislation includes several provisions I authored to increase enrollment of graduates from rural high schools in institutions of higher education, help rural schools recruit qualified teachers and administrators, and develop a strong workforce in rural America.
One-third of K-12 schools in the United States are located in rural areas and are responsible for educating almost 10 million children. Unfortunately, these schools struggle to recruit highly qualified teachers, putting our rural students at a disadvantage.
Teachers in rural schools often teach several subjects to multiple grade levels and play many different roles in the school, such as counselor, coach, lunchroom attendant, janitor, administrator, and others. Therefore, in order for rural schools to recruit qualified teachers, colleges of education must teach students the skills needed to work in rural America. My provision achieves this goal by providing incentives to colleges of education to add a rural focus to their curriculum, and encourage students to complete their required student teaching hours in rural schools.
I am also proud that Title VIII of the bill includes the College and University Rural Education (CURE) Act, which I introduced with my colleagues, Representatives DAVID LOEBSACK and ZACK SPACE. A variety of studies show that fewer high school graduates from rural schools continue on to college than from suburban schools. This unfortunate reality leads to difficulties in training a qualified workforce in rural America.
Now, more than ever, our Nation needs a skilled workforce of teachers, health care workers, information technologists, and engineers willing to live and work in rural communities in order to create and support a competitive workforce, and to enhance the quality of life for Americans living in rural areas.
The CURE Act responds to this call by establishing three grant programs to increase enrollment of rural high school graduates in institutions of higher education; increase economic development partnerships to create an employment pipeline from higher education institutions to the workforce; and increase the quality of life in rural areas by providing training for professions of need in rural areas.
Finally, I am pleased today's bill includes another provision I developed to help the dislocated workers of Galesburg, IL, and other trade impacted communities across the Nation. This provision allows workers to indicate on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that they have lost their job and would like to use current year income when applying for financial aid. This will ensure that dislocated workers receive appropriate financial support, directly resulting in greater access to training opportunities for workers who lost their jobs.
The College Opportunity and Affordability Act builds upon the work we started in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to make college more affordable and accessible to all Americans. I thank Chairman MILLER and Ranking Member MCKEON for their leadership in moving these bills through our committee and quickly to the floor. I urge all my colleagues to support the Manager's Amendment and underlining bill.
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